Happy Meatless Monday! Ever since I was a kid, I’ve always been a fan of a) Disney movies and b) seeing food on TV and wishing I could make something equally nice at home. So after watching the Disney/Pixar movie Ratatouille for the umpteenth time, I thought to myself, Self, that ratatouille looks gorgeous and if it’s good enough to render Anton Ego speechless, then I want to make it myself! I got hold of some squash, tomatoes, and (to make things even easier) some homemade tomato sauce that had been gifted to us. Without the use of any recipes aside from a few (okay… maybe a dozen) screenings of the cooking scene in the movie along with a quick Google Image search for pictures of the final product, I ended up with this:
Not bad, right? To be honest, this version of ratatouille is just a quick and easy way to enjoy the heartiness and comfort of the roasted vegetables in a delicious (and vegan!) dish that gets to the dinner table in as little as one hour. It mostly resembles Remy’s ratatouille in its styling with the use of thin slices as opposed to a chunky stew, but the sauce has been simplified and I omitted eggplants as a personal preference, (Remy, by the way, is the name of the rodent protagonist in the movie.) I learned recently that Remy’s version had been adapted from Thomas Keller, who was the culinary consultant during the production of the film. His confit byaldi recipe was posted in the New York Times in 2007, the same year the movie was released. So, for those of you doing the math, yes – I’ve been wanting to make this dish for the past 6 years and only recently became inspired and confident enough to give it a go.
I am calling this Version I because while I do intend to tackle Thomas Keller’s recipe with its more traditional red bell pepper and tomato sauce base in the near future, this attempt was pretty darn tasty. Tasty enough, I feel, to be worth sharing. This recipe ended up yielding four 5″ diameter ramekins (I used low, fluted creme brulee dishes) plus enough leftover for one 8″ diameter pie dish… about 4-6 servings total. You could probably make two 8″ diameter pie dishes or one gratin dish if you were to make multiple layers (mine were all single-layered). We enjoyed this simply spread onto toasted baguette slices, though it would make an excellent side dish to a protein of your choosing.
NomNomCat Tip #1: The sauce. I used a homemade tomato sauce (roma tomatoes, garlic, onions, thyme, oregano – all simmered together until reduced) as the base, though ratatouille is more traditionally served with a roasted red pepper and tomato blend. For our simplified version, you are welcome to use your favorite homemade (or even store-bought if you must) tomato sauce.
NomNomCat Tip #2: The vegetables. There are so many versions of ratatouille but many feature a combination of zucchini, yellow squash, tomato, eggplant (aubergine), and/or bell peppers. What makes this particular ratatouille special is its presentation. The thin slices, easily accomplished with a mandoline, roast up quickly and look impressively colorful. When purchasing your produce, you’ll want to keep in mind that vegetables of similar diameters will yield the best circles for layering. Also, beware that squashes hold a lot of water which release during the baking process. To avoid soggy ratatouille (especially if you are using eggplants), sprinkle the slices with a bit of salt to draw out some of its water before layering; . Lastly, depending on the size of your vegetables, the quantity may vary. You just want to end up with an approximately even number of slices of each vegetable (if you’re OCD like I am) or you can always adjust your layering patterns to accommodate any shortages. Have fun with it!
1 to 2 zucchinis
2 to 3 yellow squash
3 to 4 roma tomatoes
10 ounces of tomato sauce
A few tablespoons of olive oil
Salt & pepper
Sprigs of fresh thyme
Fresh chives (optional; for garnish)
French baguette (serving suggestion)
First, preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Then prepare your parchment paper circles. You’ll need to top each dish with these later and it’s much easier to measure when the vessels are empty than when they are stacked full of vegetable slices. To make a quick circle, tear off a square sheet of parchment. Fold it in half twice so that you get a smaller square. Fold the side with 2 “flaps” onto the side with the single thick crease, making a triangle. Flip over and fold one more time, so that the side with 3 flaps matches up with the (new) single thick crease. Line up the point approximately in the center of the dish and eyeball the length of the radius. Using scissors, snip across in a slightly curved line. Unfold and voila – a perfect (ish) circle!
Next, prepare your vegetables. I used my Kyocera ceramic blade mandoline on its thickest setting (3.0 mm) so I had all of my vegetables sliced in a matter of minutes. If slicing by hand, just be careful – the slices should not be paper thin or they’ll fall apart in the cooking process. A few millimeters thick and most importantly, consistent thickness for even baking.
Set your slices aside. I let the two squashes share a dish while the tomatoes sat in a separate bowl since they had already started releasing their juices.
I used our tomato sauce straight out of the refrigerator since we will be baking it anyway. Spread a thin layer at the bottom of each baking dish. These ramekins held about 2-3 spoonfuls of sauce apiece and I used the remainder to line my 8″ pie dish.
Start layering! Have fun with this step. Mine are all in the same pattern (yellow squash, zucchini, tomato, yellow squash, zucchini, tomato) to streamline the process and to satisfy my inner OCD. You are welcome to mix it up or arrange them randomly. Just be sure to overlap the slices, leaving just enough of the underlying layer visible for its color.
Brush the top with a bit of olive oil to help keep the exposed squash from drying out. I drizzled a thin line of oil over the top and rubbed it on with a clean finger. Whatever works.
Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste, and lay a sprig or two of fresh thyme on top. (If you can’t get fresh thyme, dried would be okay too),
Top with your pretty parchment circles and press down gently. The light brushing of oil will help the paper “stick” and stay close to the vegetables.
Bake in the 375 degree oven for approximately 40 minutes. When you are a few minutes away from the timer going off, start toasting crostini-sized slices of baguette (about 1/2-inch thick, sliced on a bias).
Remove the parchment and the (probably burnt) sprig of thyme before serving. To make things extra pretty, I borrowed Remy’s plating idea to use a single chive tip to garnish. Although now I have a lot of leftover chives in my refrigerator… time to research another recipe!
We each ate two of those ramekins with toast for dinner and split the contents of the pie dish for the next day’s lunch. If you plan to serve this as a side dish, I think one ramekin per person would be sufficient. One of my friends likes to drizzle the ratatouille with balsamic vinegar before baking (or balsamic reduction after baking would also work), top it with gobs of goat cheese and serve it over pan fried polenta. Fancy!
Dress it up or dress it down, there’s no right or wrong way to enjoy this comforting dish especially on a cool autumn night. Bon appetit!
This post is part of the monthly link up party Our Growing Edge. This event aims to connect food bloggers all over the world and inspire us to try new things. The ratatouille from Ratatouille has been on my bucket list for literally years and I cannot believe how easy it turned out to be! My only regret is not working up the courage to try making this sooner, but as they say, better late than never!
We are hosting this month’s link party and we can’t wait to see the autumn dishes from our friends in the northern hemisphere AND the spring dishes from our friends in the southern hemisphere!
Want to join our link party? Check out this post for details. ALL bloggers are welcome.